Sunday, January 1, 2012

PS Bowl-A-Thon 2011: Ticketcity Bowl

The Where and When:
TicketCity Bowl, Cotton Bowl Stadium, Dallas Texas. Monday, January 2nd 2012 Noon ET ESPNU
The Who:
(19) Houston Cougars (12-1, 8-0 C-USA) vs. (22) Penn State Nittany Lions (9-3, 6-2 Big 10)
The Why:
The TicketCity Bowl replaced the once on-sight Cotton Bowl...that is now played at Dallas Stadium.  Last year was the inaugural "Dallas Football Classic"..which has now been sponsored by and named the TicketCity Bowl...featured a match up of Texas Tech and Northwestern. Originally designed to match up the Big 12 and Big Ten, the news of Nebraska and Colorado bailing out of the Big 12 sparked the bowl organizers to involve Conference USA. In odd years, the Big 12 will send their 6th place team, and in even years C-USA will send a representative. Each and every year, the 6th place Big Ten team will get the invite.

Houston, this year's C-USA representative, was on track to receive a BCS Bowl invite...until they suffered their only loss of the season in the C-USA championship game. They became a shoe-in to the Texas-based bowl game...and TicketCity couldn't have been happier.

Penn State has to be ecstatic just about finding their way to a bowl game this year. We all know the off-the-field dramatics, so I'll save you the recap. And to finish second in the Leaders division is an accomplishment worthy of a tip of the cap.  Can you believe their only losses were to Alabama, Nebraska and Wisconsin? Congrats Nittany Lions.

What Smartypants Accounting Guy Would Tell You:
Houston is all about offense. We've all heard about SR QB Case Keenum and the Cougars offense. And for good reason. They are number one in every offense category accept rushing where they put up 155.23 ppg good fro 61st nationally. They generate one yard shy of 600 yds of offense per game and put up 50.8 ppg. That's just silly, silly numbers. 

Defensively they're not a dumpster fire either. They only allow 23.1 ppg (41st) and are 64th in total defense. They are better against the pass at 46th then the run 78th. 

Penn State, to no-one surprise, is the exact opposite. Offensively they are pretty crappy. They are a balance crappy thought putting up 165.08 ypg on the ground (51st) and 180.3 ypg in the air (95th). That's a total of 345.4 ypg (93rd) and generates an awful 19.8 ppg good for 109th. I'm really not even sure who to talk about here. So I won't.

And the reason they have nine wins? Well it's because of the 5th ranked scoring defense that gives up 15.7 ppg. They are 10th in total defense at just over 300 ypg. They are good against the run at 51st and the 5th best pass defense in the nation, allowing just 162.2 ypg. SR DB's Nick Sukay and Chaz Powell are going to have their hands full. 

Pool Prognosticators Pattern:
Houston throws real good.  Penn State doesn't. Houston's defense is eh.  Penn State's is duh bomb.

Vegas Edge:
Houston opened as a 9 point favorite. Since then the line as dropped to -7. PSU is just 3-8-1 ATS on the year. Houston is 10-3 ATS. PSU is 1-2 as the dog and Houston has been favored in every game they've played. The O/U is 56.5. That is the highest for PSU and the lowest for Houston. PSU has gone over twice: Northwestern and Wisconsin, two high output offensive teams.

Sweatpants Verdict:
Just another outstanding offense versus an outstanding defense. Question is: who will scheme better for the 40+ days of prep? 

It's hard to say. The best defense Houston faced all year was Southern Miss. With a BCS birth on the line Keenum was held to 41-67 for 373 2 TD and 2 Int and they lost. And Southern Miss isn't quite the Nittany Lions defense either. But they are also a hell of a lot more adept on the offensive side of the ball. That said the only thing close to what PSU will face in Houston is Northwestern. A game in which PSU gave us the most passing yards and points it has all year, but won the game 34-24. 

Defense usually doesn't rust as much as offense does. And with the Cougars going from a potential BCS bowl to the Ticketcity Bowl their motivation level has to be down. And the Cougars are without head coach Kevin Sumlin who has moved on to Texas AM already. Should be interesting but I think Penn State gets the upset. 33-30. 

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